According to a new report by Acumen Research and Consulting, global probiotic sales are set to reach $78 billion by 2026, stimulated by the increasing aging population and interest among consumers in preventative health care. Marketers may lead you to believe that probiotics are useful for everything from depression to weight loss, but is science revealing a different story? James B. LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, a clinical pharmacist, board certified clinical nutritionist, and author, joined us to share some important information.
“Unlike vitamins or other supplements, probiotics are live microorganisms that help support healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. They can be beneficial to take whether you are in good health, bad health or if you are older or younger. However, you do need to pay attention to which bacteria strains you are ingesting and why you are taking them,” says LaValle. “Don’t just take probiotics because they are popular. Be intentional about why you are using them.”
He says to keep these things in mind, three supported by science and two things that aren't, just yet:
- Shorten The Common Cold A cold can last up to 10 days but research shows if you take a probiotic you can minimize the amount of time you will feel sick by at least 2 days, reducing symptoms by 34%. This is what a published study in the British Journal of Nutrition found when researchers observed otherwise healthy college students living in close quarters under stress and lacking sleep. But this isn’t the only study proving this. A recent analysis examining 20 published trials concluded that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics can cut the duration and severity of cold symptoms and lead to fewer missed days at work or school. The science supports the use of probiotics during cold and flu season since 70% of the body’s immune cells reside in the gut.
- Improve Heart Health A major driver of heart disease is cholesterol and a review of 15 studies found that, on average, Lactobacillus probiotics reduced both total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, with two strains of Lactobacillus probiotics, L. plantarum and L. reuteri, being particularly effective. Different than using statin drugs for cholesterol reduction, studies also show that probiotics do not have any side effects. Another collection of studies suggests regular consumption of probiotics can help reduce high blood pressure, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
- Reduce GI Symptoms in Marathoners A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that runners who consumed probiotics in the weeks leading up to a race can decrease their chances of experiencing GI distress and ease common GI symptoms like nausea, gas, bloating and runner’s trots. High-endurance runners especially encounter these GI challenges due to stress, anxiety, hormone secretion and decreased blood flow to the intestines; and researchers found the longer the race, the more GI symptoms are likely to occur.
- Contribute to Weight Loss While the research is still in the preliminary stages, some information suggests that probiotics may help with weight loss, and that poor gut health has links to obesity. There are many factors that researchers have identified that can change a person’s gut flora from a thin to an obese pattern including a high-fat or high-calorie diet and the use of artificial sweeteners. While more studies are needed in the area of probiotics and weight loss, researchers speculate that probiotics improve blood glucose and weight control by cooling inflammation and balancing the gut-derived hormones that regulate appetite.
- Treat Depression Researchers agree that the gut and mind are intimately connected so there’s reason to assume that probiotics will play a part in treating depression but the science isn’t quite there yet. For severe depression or anxiety, probiotics should not be the only go-to, however it may help boost mood. Scientists speculate that the gut-brain axis is powered by the fact that gut cells make 90% of the body’s serotonin, along with other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
For more information, visit Jim's website.